As a medium, film has the unique capacity for conjuring stories and etching them into our minds in a way that becomes like our own lived experience. For Gabriel Duran, a working filmmaker and university film professor, the key to expanding cultural enrichment lies in the ability to tap into this accessibility and offer audiences new viewing experiences, memories and stories in the expansive world of film. Festival de Cine Latino Americano (FDCLA) found its roots whilst Duran was still living and working in the Dallas metropolitan area, contributing his work as a filmmaker and educator to his hometown community.
“We opened up in Fort Worth at a place called the Grand Plaza,” Duran said, describing their first festival venue as a three-story Latino mall. “The kind of place where girls go to buy quinceañera dresses.”
What began as an idea of a projector with 20 seats in a makeshift screening room grew into a four-day festival after a tireless promotional campaign across radio shows in Dallas.
Since moving to Coastal Bend four years ago to begin work as a film professor at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, Duran sought to share this blended love of film and Latino culture with a community he felt could intimately appreciate it.
Corpus Christi, with its history, traditions and residents invested in the spectrum of Latino cultures, is the ideal backdrop for an event of this quality, Duran said.
“One thing about Corpus is that when you put on an event, people support it,” he shared. “Whether it’s a small business or an event, people show up and support, which is amazing.”
The festival will explore Latina filmmakers, Texas filmmakers and documentarians, international narrative film, international documentary film and more. Similar to the desire to show a multitude of genres and styles of filmmaking, Duran and the FDCLA committee seek to highlight the diversity of Latino cultures and experiences, featuring filmmakers of all backgrounds from North, Central, South America and the Caribbean.
“I wanted us to have a space to showcase our work,” Duran said. “A way to break racism and stereotypes is to showcase voices, like Latino voices, openly through artwork and on screen.”
Duran said his love of film began as a bonding opportunity with his father, watching anything from old westerns to Gone with the Wind to Nacho Libre. From these memories, Duran forged a path into film, and he wants to create opportunities for the next generation of film watchers and filmmakers to have their own memories and epiphanies.
“This festival is very community-based,” he said of the free event. “I want all the tíos and all the tías to get out of the house for this one; bring the kids! It’s important to see somebody who looks like you on screen. I hope to give that and have an open discussion with the community.”
The festival is scheduled for May 2024 at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi Performing Arts Center. Follow the festival’s page on Facebook to stay up to date with screening information and visit the website for sponsorship opportunities.